Every plant, no matter what kind, needs water. Water is the most essential resource for life on Earth, and without enough of it everything will desiccate and die.
But, if you are a gardener or landscaper, figuring out how much water to give your plants, and how often, is easier said than done. Too much is often as bad as too little.
Today we are looking at one of the most popular herbs enjoyed around the world, basil. So, how much water does basil need?
Most basil varieties need around 1 inch to 1.5 inches of water per week, with two or more waterings being best. It is possible to water basil daily in smaller amounts, however.
Basil is a quintessential warm weather herb, and also one that grows quickly. Accordingly, it needs plenty of water to support good health and high-quality leaves that you’ll be thrilled to add to your cooking.
I’ll tell you more about watering basil and the rest of this article…
What’s the Best Time to Water Basil?
You can water basil anytime, but watering in the morning is best. You’ll hydrate your plants to prepare them for the warmth of the day and also lose a little less water to evaporation overall.
But you should definitely water it periodically on an as-needed basis to make sure the soil stays noticeably moist, but not sopping wet.
One trick I like to use is to check the top half inch of soil in the ground or in its container: if it is dry to the touch or barely moist, it’s time to water.
How Much Water Does Basil Need Per Week?
The amount of water that basil needs per week depends on where you have it planted more than the variety.
Basil that is grown indoors needs less water overall even though it tends to dry out quicker: about 1 inch of water weekly, spread across two or more waterings, is ideal.
For any basil that is planted outside, and particularly if it is planted in a hot environment or in full sun, you’ll need more water, around 1.5 inches.
Keep in mind, depending on your soil, conditions, container, and more it is possible that your basil will need more water.
Basil should never be allowed to stay in dry soil, and though you can overwater, it is almost always better to err on the side of too much water versus not enough if you are questioning.
How Often Should You Water Basil?
Basil should be watered multiple times per week, at least twice a week, or on an as-needed basis.
You have a couple of options: you can spread out your watering over two or more instances if you want to give it more water at once, or you can give it less water more often.
It is entirely possible and practical to water basil daily so long as the soil is kept agreeably moist.
Again, don’t be afraid to give basil more water if the soil dries out. It should never be permitted to stay in dry soil!
Does Basil Like Wet Soil?
Yes, it does. Basil is one of those plants that likes a “Goldilocks” kind of soil: not too wet, not too dry, just right! The ideal soil for basil is one that is noticeably moist, but not sopping wet.
However, you must ensure that whatever soil is planted in, indoors or out, is rapidly draining because the roots will easily suffer from root rot if they are allowed to sit in water for any length of time.
Essentially, you want to water often enough so the soil stays moist, but water does not accumulate beneath the plant in the ground or in the container.
To help in this endeavor, consider a ground covering like mulch to help lock in more moisture without waterlogging it.
Can Basil be Overwatered?
Yes, it can. Might be a surprise to some people who already know how water-hungry basil tends to be, but it is possible to overwater it.
This is especially easy to do if your policy on watering is more water, more often. You must take the time to measure how much water your basil gets.
Use a rain gauge to track the amount of water (in inches) if you water with a can or sprayer, or measure how much water you give your plant per watering and adjust based on its health.
What are Some Problems Associated with Overwatering Basil?
You’ll know when you start to overwater basil, though, because the leaves will begin to turn yellow starting at the bottom or base of the leaf near the stem, and progressing outward towards the tips. Roots may also discolor in a similar fashion.
Also, as mentioned above, root rot is highly likely if the plant is getting too much water. If the roots don’t feel firm and crisp, but instead it feels soft or even mushy, they’re getting too much water.
How Will You Know if Basil Isn’t Getting Enough Water?
A far more likely problem, though, is that your basil doesn’t get enough water. This is one thirsty herb! The first thing you will notice is that the plant will start to droop and appear unhealthy overall.
A serious lack of water, major dehydration, will make leaves start to feel crispy and turn brown.
If you have your basil in a container, one easy way to tell instantly if your plant is getting enough water is to pick up the container.
You’ll know how a hydrated, moist container feels and one that is dried out will feel significantly lighter. If the container feels very light, it’s time to water!
How Often Should You Water Basil in Pots?
Basil is one of the best plants, and perhaps the very best herb, to grow in a pot or other container.
If you are growing it indoors, unlike many other plans, you can actually give basil less water because it will enjoy an environment with a far more stable temperature.
If you grow your basil in a pot or other container indoors, it will only need about an inch of water every week, given on the schedule described above.
However, if it’s in a pot growing outdoors, it will need more water in the same way, around 1.5 inches weekly.
And on this note, you must ensure that all pots drain as well as the soil does! Fast-draining soil does no good if the pots don’t let the water drain out entirely.
If you are in doubt, drill more holes in the bottom of the pot or choose an unglazed clay pot that will allow moisture to evaporate through the pot itself.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.